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What do you give a shit about?

You probably haven’t really considered the question.  Finding the answer is not as easy as it may seem.  Looking inward is uncomfortable.  Self-examination requires courage.  It may also demand change.

Once you see what you really give a shit about – you can’t unsee it.  Once you define your values it hurts not to embrace them.  If justice is a core value, then it’s harder to stay silent when faced with injustice. Otherwise, it’s not really a value.

Maybe the most difficult thing about introspection is that it might force a painful admission.   That you’ve been ignoring the things you really give a shit about.  However, isn’t it worth doing?

Of course it is.

As a matter of fact, it’s mandatory.  To live disconnected from what you hold as truth is a disease with only one treatment.  For that matter, to live in opposite of it often manifests in a low lying misery.  Of course, that is what most of us do.  Most of us lawyers anyway.

If this sounds like something you don’t give a shit about, then this is a good time to click elsewhere.  The rabbit hole only gets more snug from here.  The good news, there’s a prize if you’re willing to take the trip.  So, for the rest of us…

Unmeaningful work sucks

Doing work that’s in harmony with what you hold tightly inside is the definition of meaningful work.  While I have no clue where the path to happiness resides – I do believe the direction of meaningfulness is within reach.  Even if meaningful is a moving target.

Connecting yourself to the things you give a shit about moves you into a position to change a status quo.   Both inside and outside of you.  It gives you the opportunity to experience what is meaningful to you.

So what do you give a shit about?

I have no idea.  I’ve never met you.  For that matter, I’m constantly struggling to find the edges of this for myself.   However, a good place to start is beneath what you have already done.

Did you go to law school to do small things?  I didn’t.  While I did not intend to change the world, I hoped on occasion I could change one person’s world.  I hoped that every now and then, I could help hold someone accountable – who needed to be held accountable.

That being said, when I cut everything else away, what I find indispensable inside me is Justice.  Regardless of who was seeking it.  After considerable self-deliberations, the verdict is in.  I give a shit about Justice.

The difficult thing…

What is Justice?  That’s hard to answer.  One person’s Justice is often another person’s Injustice. The more you try to picture it about, the more shades of grey color it.

However, Justice is more than a general principle.  It’s a specific theory of how to live in our world.  It’s a point of view which answers fundamental questions of right and wrong.  I subscribe to a very old and fundamental American view – justice is only possible when we firmly premise decisions on the belief that – the risk of letting a guilty person go – is substantially outweighed by the risk of finding blame in an innocent one.

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. 

But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned…then the citizen will say, ‘whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection; and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

~ John Adams 

(One of the Founding Father of the American Revolution, Second President of United States, and cousin had a beer named after him).

Adequately defining justice also necessitates defining its opposite.  I believe its other bookend is tyranny.  With these in mind, Charles de Montesquieu’s words resonate within me: “There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”  This is the type of tyranny that our founding fathers fought against.  Challenging it is, or at least should be, in our country’s DNA.

This is what I mean when I say Justice.  It is how I believe Justice should be practiced.  And honoring any value, especially Justice, creates responsibilities.  The difficult thing about embracing this view of Justice is trying to live it.

What’s the point?

Isn’t all this just an ivory tower thesis statement with no real-world application?  My response:  bullshit.  Yes, this is aspirational.  What ideal isn’t?   No one I know lives their values 24/7.  What is important is starting, trying, failing and starting again…and every now and then making an aspiration into a reality.

Changing a status quo, fixing something that needs fixing, or righting a wrong is always aspirational. It is also worth doing.  Perhaps you may not create something worthy of making it into the history books.  So write your own.  Every great accomplishment started with a small step.  A decision that a particular endeavor was worth doing.  This is the start of mine.  I hope you come along for the ride.







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